Trying to win an argument at any cost is how people get hurt.
“At any cost” for most people usually means hurt feelings when arguing with friends, opinionated family at Thanksgiving or even those people who make time to argue over the internet.
But in national discourse, bullheadedly trying to win an argument by any means necessary can result in disaster, and as we’ve just seen, even spurring domestic terrorism and unspeakable violence.
Three people were killed in Colorado Springs on Nov. 27. The victims were a police officer, an Iraq war veteran and a mother of two, and nine more were injured. They were attacked by Robert L. Dear Jr. at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, with Dear reportedly saying afterward, “no more baby parts.”
While these horrifying acts of violence are undoubtedly one of the most complex and fraught epicenters of societal breaking points, sometimes we can make out a clear pattern of causation, or at least identify a catalyst. Here in this moment, it seems like trying at any cost to win the abortion argument has spurred a maniac to terrorism. We might specifically look at the behavior behind and impact of the sting operation to discredit and criminalize Planned Parenthood.
I’m referring, of course, to the Center for Medical Progress’ series of heavily edited and pre-planned videos attempting to paint the health organization as a group of baby-harvesting monsters who deserved to have federal funding cut off. They deserve to be shut down, the genocidal abortionist fiends. They deserve to be shot.
These completely debunked videos in this abhorrently unethical smear campaign of deception, driven toward a supposedly ethical goal, come to mind today.
Mother Jones detailed in its article, “The New, Ugly Surge in Violence and Threats Against Abortion Providers,” that “Since the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal issue, harassment, threats, and attacks against abortion providers, their staff and facilities have surged dramatically across the country, according to new numbers from the National Abortion Federation.”
And in what should hit home for Kansans, the article also detailed that these three deaths were the first abortion clinic slayings since 2009 when Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in his church in Wichita, Kansas.
Despite that we most likely won’t ever be able to fully understand what goes through the broken mind of a killer like Dear, the impact of the unethical anti-abortion propaganda and its heavy play in national Republican politics must be examined.
Top Republican presidential candidates like Carly Fiorina have focused on the videos and anti-Planned Parenthood surge, with the other major candidates shamefully complicit in using this vile — even un-explicitly — to pursue their own political abortion agenda. Anyone who viciously and unfairly attacked Planned Parenthood using the shadow of this propaganda up on the debate stage is complicit in the act’s consequences.
Let us also not forget that top legislative Republicans shamelessly used this crap to win the argument. While videos were still being released, Politico reported as such in its July 16 article “Republicans plan new abortion push.”
“Republicans on Capitol Hill are betting,” the article detailed, “the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video — depicting an executive allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs from terminated pregnancies — will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past.”
The connection, it seems, between inflaming rhetoric and realized acts of violence is all too real. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said on CNN’s State of the Union that the abortion argument “is inflaming people to the point where they can’t stand it, and they go out and they lose connection with reality in some way and commit these acts of unthinkable violence.”
Let me be clear; I am absolutely not trying to demonize the Republican Party, or even anti-abortionists. What I am saying is that allowing your argument to house — or feature — unethical propaganda like the anti-Planned Parenthood vitriol we’ve seen is how any morality your argument might have had is tarnished. What I am saying is that trying to win the argument by any means necessary is what leads to unintended consequences like stirring the murderous minds of unhealthy believers in your cause.
While I believe first and foremost in a woman’s right to choose, abortion is an argument with morality and wisdom on both sides. I completely understand the view that abortion is unjustly ending a baby’s life, even if I don’t agree with it.
But violence like what happened in Colorado Springs embodies the absolute worst potential of the pro-life view, a sickened absolutist view (that’s where terrorism breeds) that damns the real lives of fellow human beings like the 12 victims for the sake of the argument.
And, if we’re going to keep arguing, we have got to keep in mind the unintended evils of trying to win at all costs. Because as we just saw in Colorado Springs, the cost is despairingly too great.